This is why Byron Allen is willing to pay $3.5 billion for BET

BY Preta Peace Namasaba January 8, 2024 12:28 PM EDT
Byron Allen
Byron Allen. Photo Credit:

Byron Allen has placed a $3.5 billion offer to purchase BET Media Group from Paramount Global. This is a renewed offer that follows an earlier bid of $2.7 billion in mid-2023.

Around the time of Allen’s first bid, Tyler Perry and Sean “Diddy” Combs also made unsuccessful bids to purchase the network. So why has Allen upped his bid?

Insiders say while Paramount is looking to merge with Warner Bros Discovery to create a mammoth $39 billion business entity, the former is open to selling of some of the brands under its ownership, including BET. Allen is therefore looking to obtain a good deal under these circumstances.

Earlier in December 2023, Allen emailed Paramount Global executives with his offer for BET Media Group which also owns VH1, BET cable channel, BET+ and BET Studios whose partners include Black-ish creator Kenya Barris and actress Rashida Jones.

Allen’s bid has received popular support among Black Americans who are interested in seeing BET, or Black Entertainment Television, under Black ownership again.

BET was founded in 1980 by Robert L. Johnson as an outlet aimed at Black audiences. The network ceased being Black owned upon its sale to Viacom in 2001 for $3 billion.

Allen is no stranger to the entertainment business. He owns 36 ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox network affiliate broadcast television stations in 21 U.S. markets and twelve 24-hour HD television networks serving nearly 220 million subscribers. He is the first Black American to own a 24-hour mainstream cable news network.

In the email Allen sent to Paramount executives, he reportedly wrote:

You are pursuing an inside sale at a below-market price with management that will not yield the highest price for the stockholders. We believe it would be an egregious breach of fiduciary duty by the Paramount Global management team and board of directors if BET is sold for anything less than the highest price, particularly, in order to provide a sweetheart deal to an insider at the expense of public shareholders.

That insider Allen is referring to may be BET CEO Scott Mills, a 26-year veteran of the company. Another interested buyer is Chinhu Chu, a former executive at equity firm Blackstone.

Allen may perhaps have had in mind what fellow media investor and filmmaker Tyler Perry feels about te process to sell BET. In October last year, Perry expressed disappointment with Paramount, calling the sale process “disrespectful”.

Perry said:

I think there was sadness when Bob sold it, and I think there’ll be happiness when it’s Black-owned again. Even though Shari (Redstone) and what is it? Viacom and Paramount? They’ve done a phenomenal job with it. [But] I was disappointed [with the process of the sale] for a number of reasons. The way it happened was disrespectful in a lot of ways. Don’t try to get me to pay for something that’s not worth anywhere near the value.

It is not clear what Perry offered for the network although Allen’s continued interest gives an indication that he is ready to pay more than the former.